Therapy Blog for Orem, Spanish Fork & South Jordan

Marriage Counseling: How to Get Along When You Disagree

Marriage Counseling: How to Get Along with Your Spouse when you Disagree 

Disagreements about difficult topics are a common topic of conversation in marriage counseling. If you and your spouse do not see eye to eye on things, positive communication can seem impossible. Disagreements about politics, religion, in laws, and other divisive topics are hard to navigate and can be discouraging. You might even wonder if not seeing eye to eye makes you and your spouse incompatible. 

Luckily, disagreeing with your partner does not mean you are doomed to fail. Today, you will learn about how you can navigate hard topics with your spouse. You will also learn how marriage counseling can help. 

Myth: You Always Have to Agree

But, wait. To be successful, don’t you and your spouse have to agree on things? Shouldn’t you be on the same page? Are your disagreements signs of a fundamental problem in your relationship?marriage counseling

You might be surprised to find out that you really don’t have to agree on everything to have a happy, long-lasting relationship. In fact, John Gottman, a relationship researcher, found that some of the happiest couples in his research groups only agreed on about 69% of issues overall. (Source). 

Surprised? I was, too! Many of the cultural messages about marriage promote a sort of “all or nothing” idea about relationships. For example, some may say that you and your partner have to always agree to be successful. Or you may have heard that if you don’t find a way to change and agree with each other, then your relationship will inevitably end. 

These ideas make blanket assumptions about relationships, and assume that if you don’t see eye to eye, you won’t make it. Thankfully, these ideas are not true. In relationships, it’s less about the topics you and your partner disagree about and more about how you go about disagreeing.  (Related Article: Marriage Counseling- Team Building). 

Changing the Goal

Imagine this. You and your partner are discussing a current event. As the conversation progresses, you begin to feel a little nervous. You can tell things are tense and that you and your partner are not agreeing. Plus, what can you even do; just pretend you agree? Where can you go from here? You might even try to change the subject or calm the conversation without any success. Now what? 

If this cycle sounds familiar, it might seem like you are stuck. Thankfully, you can find a way to break from this habit. It can be as simple as changing the goal of these difficult conversations. Don’t work until you agree. Work until you hear and are heard. (Related Article: Promoting Partnership).

Hearing and Being Heard

Agreed Upon Positive

Here’s how you can better hear your spouse and be heard by your spouse during difficult conversations. First, find an “agreed upon positive” (source). That’s a statement that validates the emotions and experiences of your partner. Now, it’s important to remember that this statement does not mean you just give in and agree. You do not have to validate your partner’s viewpoint, approach, or opinion. However, it is important to validate your partner’s experiences, emotions, and perspective about their world. 

For instance, you could start your response with the agreed-upon positive “I see why you are frustrated about this”. That statement may not agree with your partner’s exact opinion, but it validates their experience. This validation shows your spouse that you see them and that you care. 

Next, you can briefly share your own viewpoint. May marriage counselingbe this viewpoint is similar. Maybe you disagree. Either way, two important things can help ease your communication in this step. 

First, link the agreed-upon positive and your perspective with the word “and”. Many partners have a tendency to use “but” in this sort of statement. However, “but” also has a tendency to negate what you said before. That is why it’s important to use “and” instead of “but” in these sorts of situations. “And” invites more openness. It allows both your view and your partner’s opposing view to exist together at the same time.  (Related Article: How to Accept Your Partner’s Influence)

Bringing it All Together

Next, express your point of view directly and respectfully. An agreed-upon positive, the word “and”, and your direct expression of your own perspective can set a more effective foundation for the rest of your conversation. When you put it all together, it’ll look something like this: 

“I see why you are frustrated about this topic. And I actually think that…..”

Using this format can be the difference between an argument and a productive conversation about a controversial topic with your partner. (Related article: Cooperation vs. Collaboration in Marriage)

Still Struggling? Marriage Counseling Can Help

Tackling controversial conversations will be a recurring challenge in any long-term relationship. But disagreements do not have to mean your relationship will fail. And you do not have to go it alone! Couples therapy is a personalized, effective tool that can help you and your partner learn how to improve your communication and problem solving-skills in your marriage. 

Ready to get started? Start marriage counseling in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork. 

Written By Lauren Adkins

Lauren Adkins

Writer for the Center for Couples and Families


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